Israeli Jewelers at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition

Published: July 10th 2010
in Culture » Art

Sarit Assaf, knitted bracelet, silver
Sarit Assaf, knitted rings, silver, gold-filled, coloured copper
Nirit Dekel, Ballerinas necklace, glass

Now in its 49th year, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (TOAE) is one of the largest, if not the largest, juried art festival featuring contemporary fine arts and crafts in Canada. The TOAE takes place at Nathan Phillips Square every July. This year, more than 500 selected artists will gather on July 9, 10 and 11 to showcase their contemporary artwork, in all media and styles.


Among them will be two Israeli artists who focus their artistic creativity and careers on the art of jewelry making. For Sarit Assaf, it will be her first time showing in Canada. In the case of Nirit Dekel, her TOAE success in 2008 made it an easy decision to participate again.


I interviewed both Assaf and Dekel just before their trips to Toronto. Both were excited for this opportunity, and they shared their backgrounds, hopes and inspirations.


Sarit Assaf confessed that when growing up, she didn’t have any hand in making art. It was only during her studies to become a special education teacher that she realized that field wasn’t for her, and began looking for something different. After some trial and error, she enrolled in design courses at Omanit College in Jaffa. With encouragement from her teachers and some apprentice work with another jeweler, Assaf started working at the Eretz Israel Museum shop in Tel Aviv in management, where she works till today.


The store manager, Aviva Ben-Sira, pushed Sarit to become more professionally savvy with her work. But the breakthrough came about seven years ago, when AIDA, the Association of Israel’s Decorative Arts, was created.


Charles Bronfman and his wife, the late Andrea Bronfman, along with their friends Doug and Dale Anderson, were so impressed with the level of artistry in Israel that they decided to start the association to support Israeli artists. The association helps artists find new venues, educational programs and scholarships in leading art schools abroad, and secure museum and gallery exhibitions.


Assaf was one of the first artists to join, and since then has exhibited at the Philadelphia Craft Show, which led to representation at stores and galleries in the U.S. Beyond that, the experience she gained through AIDA pushed her to become even more professional in terms of her designs, product quality and business endeavours. She is so grateful to AIDA for sponsoring her in this trip to the TOAE.


Assaf’s creations are painstakingly created by metal thread knitting. Some of the metals are precious, like gold and silver, and some are not, but all retain their colours and contain no additional colours or stones. Assaf does play with the juxtaposition of the crochetedmetal – with its complex perforated look – and the smooth metal that lies next to, or peeks from within, the knitted areas. Her works are not small, and they make an immediate impression. She describes her work as very fitting to her personally – a clean, organized, focused, subdued colour palette.


In contrast, Nirit Dekel’s glass jewelry bursts with colour. Dekel is also a member of AIDA, and she loves returning to Toronto and the TOAE. She had an amazing experience two years ago and can’t wait to come again.


Related articles: (Israeli artists, Toronto, Outdoor Art Exhibition)
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